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Norcross Group Offers $29 Million Buyout to Inquirer Minority Shareholders

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(Photo illustration by Ed Fischer)

(Photo illustration by Ed Fischer)

Steve Tawa Steve Tawa
Steve Tawa joined KYW Newsradio in 1990, and splits his time between...
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By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Some of the wealthy shareholders involved in slinging lawsuits back and forth in a nasty boardroom quarrel over control of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News are now willing to buy the other guys out “for immediate cash, no strings attached.”

George Norcross and William Hankowsky, two of the four owners who have a 58-percent majority stake, say they are willing to end the “sideshow” by purchasing the minority shares of the company of a rival faction owned by Lewis Katz and Gerry Lenfest.

The offer on the table is $29 million, representing, the offering partners say, a 12-percent profit 18 months after the six formed a consortium to buy the company.

And, they say, the money would be wired to the sellers’ accounts within 24 hours.

Lewis Katz and Gerry Lenfest released the following statement:

“We didn’t get into this for economic purposes.  We invested because of public service and our civic duty.  That was our motivation then; that is our motivation now; and that is the reason we filed the lawsuit. Because we earnestly believe that the independence of the news reporting by the Inquirer is the goal, we are interested in having a buy-sell agreement.  However, it is not to be done as a publicity stunt and, if the Norcross block is serious, they can have their attorneys contact our attorneys to prepare a buy-sell agreement with a shotgun clause where the Norcross block names the price.”

The Newspaper Guild, representing reporters, editors, photographers, and others, previously offered to lead a group to buy out either or both of the warring ownership groups. The Guild quotes both as responding, “We’re not selling.”

The current set of owners, the fifth in seven years, bought the media company in 2012 for $55 million.

In 2006, when then-publisher Brian Tierney assembled a group of local investors, they paid nearly ten times that amount.

But by 2009 the company declared bankruptcy, and in 2010 control shifted to hedge fund owners.

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